From epic landscapes to offbeat and intimate portraits to slices of Maine life as it's lived.
In print alone, Down East published somewhere north of 1,000 photos over the course of the last 12 months, shot in every corner of the state by a troupe of supremely talented contributors. The end-of-year task of picking 15 that we especially loved fell to photo editor Tara Rice, staff photographer Dave Waddell, and editor in chief Brian Kevin — all of whom have the pleasure of working every day with the some of very best photographers in New England.
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By now, most of us are familiar with the scourge of PFAs, or “forever chemicals,” and their widespread effects on human health. Maine is leading the country in gauging the extent of agricultural contamination and proposing legislative and economic solutions. Greta Rybus’s shot of Misty Brook Farm owner Holmes, as she separates her herd of PFA-contaminated milk cows from her non-contaminated cows, helps put a relatable face on this complex topic, which has repercussions for all our health and safety. — D.W.
Such a well-executed portrait. Michael Wilson found a super creative and playful way to portray Phillips by surrounding him so closely with his puppets. I love this picture because I think it brings out the best of both the subject and the photographer, and you can really see that they were able to collaborate in making this come to life. — T.R.
There’s something exciting and inspiring about the symbiotic relationship between a musher, a dog team, and a remote, deeply frozen landscape — especially in a world that values speed and efficiency over everything else. Jason Frank’s sun-backed photo of Aroostook musher and Iditarod hopeful Hayes and his team barreling through a pine grove gives us a dose of winter adventure and illustrates this unique partnership between human and dog, where survival is often on the line for both. — D.W.
Tara Rice shot the holy hell out of artist Eric Hopkins for this profile — in his Rockland gallery, in his North Haven studio, on a boat in between, on a dock, etc. — but her series of tight, simple headshots captured his sunny eccentricity better than any photo I’ve seen of him (and they’re in the same palette as his paintings too). — B.K.
We’ve all seen a zillion shots of Portland Head Light, but it seems to me it usually looks more like a symbol or a sentry than an actual beacon. Not so in Mat Trogner’s striking, low contrast image, which ran on our back page and pretty perfectly nails the beautiful/harsh binary of winter in coastal Maine. — B.K.
This image conjures summers past for me. It’s a pretty straightforward picture, but it’s sentimental, fun, and colorful, and I think so many people can recall the feeling of being in line for ice cream in the middle of a Maine summer when you’re hot and tired and need something sweet and cold to make it to dinner. The baseball team is a perfect touch. — T.R.
I’m always fascinated by the processes of creativity: I love seeing other people’s workspaces, what tools they use, and the intricacies of how they create and find inspiration. Wilson’s warm and inviting environmental portrait of 82-year-old Phillips, a member of the Penobscot Nation who makes birch-bark moose calls, gives us an intriguing glimpse into Phillips’s creative approach to this beautiful, longstanding Wabanaki tradition. — D.W.
The best of Alex MacLean’s coastal aerials use appealingly surreal geometry to convey tension between built and natural environments. Deer Isle’s causeway was one of dozens of subjects MacLean shot as part of a collaborative project on sea-level rise with the Maine Monitor, the Pulitzer Center, and Down East. Ironically (because, emissions) this photo really makes me want to drive this road in a fast car. — B.K.
While I prefer the confines of a kayak to a canoe, paddling is one of my favorite ways to explore Maine — it’s such an intimate mode of travel, allowing access to otherwise unreachable places. You get a sense of that feeling of access from Tara Rice’s photo of her co-paddler van de Sande, of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, as the two of them glide along the Orange River down east. The viewer is placed right there in the boat, along one of Maine’s lesser-traveled stretches of water, which MCHT is actively working to restore and protect via a collaborative effort called the Rivers Initiative. — D.W.
This photo really captures Hermes’s essence. Her space is full of color and contrast, and you can see that she feels at ease surrounded by these things that give us insight into who she is as a person. Jamie Mercurio did a great job celebrating her subject’s personality — and how she curates her space to match it. — T.R.
A rare opportunity this year to commission a photographer to shoot something they were already exploring on their own. I’d seen Chris Bennett hiking this border trail on social media, and we had gone back and forth about what he was up to out there before I was able to match it to a border-culture feature we were working on. It’s so fun to be able to tap into someone’s existing knowledge or passion for something, and he did an amazing job shooting this unique trail. — T.R.
It’s classic as can be, the sky-blue boats pop just right, and it sure makes you want to take in the sounds and smells of a working dock on the Maine coast. Sometimes you see a photo and just know right away it’s going to look great on the page. — B.K.
I love Paul Cunningham’s image of the replica of the Virginia of Sagadahoc being built in Bath, some 10 miles upriver from where the original ship was built by residents of the Popham Colony, in 1607. Historically, Maine has been home to many of the world’s most knowledgeable and experienced shipwrights, naval architects, and sailors — and that’s still the case today. The massive, exposed wooden frame shows the dedication, artistry, and skill required to transform trees that grew straight into the familiar, beautifully curved lines of the vessels that have transported people around the world for centuries. — D.W.
I love this portrait of then-representative Evangelos sitting with a stack of letters he has received from incarcerated people. Tristan Spinski is especially gifted at telling complex stories in single images. This one makes you stop and linger and look around for context clues, and I think he did a great job helping tell the broader story of who Evangelos is in a single frame. — T.R.
Chris Shane, who’s no stranger to the mountains, had to keep up with ultrarunner Barry Dana (and runner and writer Jaed Coffin) as they charged through some of Maine’s most unforgiving country. He brought back a lot of great shots, but this one’s my fave, in part because of how the landscape unfurls behind Dana and in part because Dana seems barely to notice the photographer as he lopes across this gnarly peak. A badass man on the move. — B.K.